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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Catching Up

The drought broke here, after a fashion, on August 4 when during a large outdoor party in the afternoon we got a terrific thunderstorm and blow that dropped 1.5" of rain. Two hours later, though, one would never have known it had rained – there was no runoff nor even puddles. Since then we've had a couple storms that left about 0.7" each, and a couple at 0.1". None of this has restored the deficit and there's been no runoff so the pond continues to dry up and in the surrounding countryside the corn continues to die. Still, the grass has greened-up and everything looks a lot better. Temperatures moderated over the past couple weeks, 80s and 90s, and this makes for easier working outdoors.

In Seattleland, I always had the impression of the sky, and weather, being quite close to the ground. The skies here in Iowa are big, expansive, and layered into the stratosphere. On several recent days the cloud cover has primarily been composed of condensation trails from aircraft crisscrossing this piece of flyover country.

Today I met the farmer on the other side of this fence. He'd was looking for a four-year-old, 2500 pound bull that had gone missing, and I had to tell him I'd not seen it. It's a bit of a mystery because his pastures are well-fenced, but he told me that, without the addition of electric wire, a bull of that size can jump five strands of barbed wire. I rather hope I don't find the big thing.

The previous owners installed chain-link fencing around the house, presumably to contain their small children, and one of the first things Alan & Donna did when they arrived was to take down the mesh, but the posts were set in concrete – not just the corners but every one! – and proved quite difficult to remove. Alan and I gave it another go last weekend, using a technique derived from a 1909 book, Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them. We had a tractor instead of a team of horses, but the principles were the same. Our first attempts failed, but after digging away the turf that had covered the top of the concrete bases, creating little moats, and soaking these for a while – success!

Now the collection of posts is stacked in our stockpiles area, awaiting repurposing. Perhaps we'll cut off the pipes above the concrete and make giant wind chimes in the woods.

On a recent evening the clouds boiled up then, as has usually been the case, parted and went around without producing rain. But such magnificent tableaux! As my hero Jack Vance might put it, allegories of battles between good and evil...

The rain caused a lot of the tomato crop to split on the vine, and these fruits require a lot of culling and trimming before we can use them, but the dehydration project continues and the next step will be to pack them in oil and herbs. There are still a lot more on the vines, and sauce to be made and preserved.

Donna harvested Concords from one of the grapevines and made jelly. A rip-roaring success for her first attempt at this – excellent color, consistency, and flavor.

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